Songwriter’s words made a difference

Published 1:41 am Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It’s not often you get to meet an artist who wrote music that touched you in a profound way. Last Sunday afternoon, I had an opportunity to meet and to tell a songwriter that two of his creations touched my life and forever remain favorites on my play list.

My husband, who knows volumes about artists and their work, told me about a person scheduled to play at the Capitol Oyster Bar. He said at first he didn’t realize exactly who he was because he was appearing as his alternate persona, Whitey Johnson, instead of as singer-songwriter Gary Nicholson.

“Hey, do you know who this guy is?” my husband asked. “He’s written hits for so many people,” he said, and started naming artists and songs.

The list included Etta James, Buddy Guy, George Strait, Ringo Starr, Patty Loveless, etc. I thought he sounded like a pretty amazing songwriter and someone that was worth hearing.

Then I heard my husband say.

“He wrote a couple of songs Beth Nielson Chapman recorded. “Beyond the Blue” and “Choose Love.” Ever heard those?”

“Wait,” I said. “He is the person who wrote “Choose Love” and “Beyond the Blue?”

“Yep,” he said. “I think he co-wrote “Beyond the Blue with Beth Nielson Chapman.”

My husband had no idea what those songs meant to me so I played both of them for him.

“I’d like to see this man in person,” I said. “Don’t know if he will sing either of those songs, but I would like to at least see him.

We headed for the Capitol Oyster Bar. It’s one of our favorite places to hear great music and eat good food. The crowd wasn’t too large when we arrived so we got a table near the spot serving as a stage for the singer and his band.

A few minutes before they were set to begin, Gary Nicholson walked out dressed in a white suit, red tie and red shoes. He was ready to become Whitey Johnson for the waiting audience.

“You think it would be OK for me to tell him how much I like those songs,” I asked my husband.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” he said.

So, I tapped him on the shoulder. He extended his hand as I began talking.

“I want to tell you what two of your songs mean to me,” I said. “I want you to know they touched me and one in particular helped through a rough time.”

I explained how I listened to “Beyond the Blue” countless times after we lost a baby. It carried me when I needed holding.

“I’ve used ‘Choose Love’ for yoga classes,” I said. “The words are so beautiful and meanful.”

He thanked me and said something about possibly playing it. I knew he was there to play music that was more blues and rock-and-roll, but I hoped maybe he’d find a place to drop in that song.

To my surprise, when he stepped up to the microphone, he announced that before he started his set, he was going to play a song for his new friend. He smiled in my direction and I heard the opening chords of “Choose Love.” It was all I could do not to cry as I sang along.

“…When you’re doubting your direction

And you feel like giving up

Choose love…”

Oh, there was one other thing I told him as when talked.

“Someone can’t write lyrics like the ones in your songs if that is not what’s in his heart,” I said. “They have to come from that place.”

He didn’t say anything, just smiled.

No, it’s not often you get the chance to tell someone they created music that made a difference in your life. It is not often you meet a person who writes from his heart and creates lyrics that touch us, unite us and bring us joy. I’m grateful I had that opportunity.

Again, thank you Gary Nicholson. You inspire us always to choose love.



Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.